Original image created by historymike using public domain images
(Toledo, OH) I received an angry email from an individual (who will remain anonymous) who owns a company with a Web page. I used a photo from this company's website on an article many months ago, and - despite a disclaimer and giving a link to his site - the business owner wanted it removed.
The photo itself was inconsequential, and similar photos were readily available from hundreds of sites. I picked one of the first that I came across on Google Images, and added the source citation.
Fair enough, though, if the man wants the image removed. While I, in good faith, make every effort to follow the standards of fair use, I am also a reasonable person. What surprised me, though, was the tone used by the complaining individual (I left some, but not all, of the profanity in for flavor):
Fair use my ass. You troll the net and steal material. I am sick of encountering people like you. I find my material stolen far too often. What is even more galling is that you know where it comes from and state that you have permission.....If you were to check out our website, you would see a copyright notice at the bottom of every fucking page.
[Note: I suggested that he add a more detailed disclaimer, something along the lines of "Unless otherwise indicated, the material on this site is the intellectual property of ______, and may not be reproduced without written permission."]
Zing! As I am not a person who goes through life making enemies, I removed the photo as a matter of courtesy. That being said, there is also the matter of how to handle someone else using your material.
Were I the sort of person who enjoys Internet wars, this would be an excellent time to fire up the keyboard. Here is a person accusing me of theft and bad faith, simply because I used a photo and correctly cited the source.
I wrote to the business owner that "as my grandmother said, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." Truer words have never been spoken, but I would hazard a guess that this person will be much less successful the next time he attempts to deal with the evolving legal issues of fair use by acting like a cyber-Tyrannosaurus.
The moral of the story, I suppose, is that the Internet is changing the nature of information retrieval and copyright laws, and if you are worried about someone using your work, you would be better served by keeping it offline.